Theresa May's Brexit speech rules out single market membership

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May.
Image: UK Home Office.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday announced the government's plans for how to proceed with the United Kingdom's exit, or "Brexit" (British exit), from the European Union. May stated the government would not seek to be a member of the European single market and would instead seek a new trade relationship. May said the UK government would seek access to the single market without retaining formal membership in it.

May's speech stressed the need for friendliness between Britain and the EU but also ruled out any deal that did not allow the British government to control immigration, or which would require Britain to continue being bound by decisions of the European Court of Justice. In yesterday's speech, May also ruled out continued membership of the customs union as this prevented Britain from negotiating trade deals with non-EU countries.

Theresa May also said Britain's contributions to the EU budget would cease, although some contributions would be made to some pan-European schemes. In her words, "the days of Britain making vast contributions to the European Union every year will end". The speech also covered the legal status of both UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK. May said she wished to guarantee the status of both, but that she also sought "reciprocity" before doing so, and noted "one or two" other countries had not been willing to do so.

Following May's speech the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, echoed the Prime Minister in a speech he gave to Parliament, adding "the final deal agreed between the UK and the EU will be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it takes effect".

Next week, on January 24, the Supreme Court is due to deliver a decision in a case challenging the government's right to issue Article 50—which starts the Brexit negotiations—without the consultation of Parliament.